Perhaps too many church members have watched “Field of Dreams” but there seems to be an adage within the church “if you build it, they will come.” The church’s response to “go into all the world” is to construct a program or hold an event. Understand that programs and events can be good but they should not be the final solution to evangelism within the church. This article deals with using events for evangelism within the church. For ideas on using programs, see here.
Churches use events for several different reasons and have many different approaches. Some hold big “church” events with well known Christian speakers but make an attempt to market it to the non-churched crowd. They’re called tent meetings, revival meetings, camp meetings, renewal meetings, and probably several other names. See here for more about The Difference Between Revival and Evangelism.
Other churches pull the “bait and switch” technique to get people to hear the gospel. In other words, they advertise an event that is supposed to be fun and non threatening to the community and when people arrive they get a little bit of fun but they also have to sit through a gospel presentation or sermon. This has a way of backfiring because people feel tricked. Not only do they close themselves off from the message, they are far less likely to attend another event at that church or any other church.
There are times that church evangelism can be done through events but what is going to take place must be clearly communicated. A guest not feel as if they have been lied to when they show up at an event. A speaker may be a part of the program but it should be communicated up front. Don’t expect non Christians to show up to hear a speaker by virtue of the fact that they are well known within the Christian community.
Events can and should be used as a non threatening way to expose people to church and Christianity. Instead of taking the attitude of “get them in and get them saved” evangelistic events should be thought of as an introduction to the church. People from outside of the church can feel free to come in and get to meet members of the church as well as the pastor. They can see that the church cares about them and their needs. And perhaps most importantly they can see that Christians are normal people like them and not just a bunch of religious nuts.
Certainly there has been success with more aggressive evangelism techniques and people have been saved through their first exposure to church at a church event. But this is the exception and not the rule. As society moves further and further away from Christian roots, we can expect this to happen less often.
Church evangelism is best done as a process. Events are one step in opening the door to non Christians. There relationships are formed and barriers are broken down. Further invitations can then be made to a more regular church service where the gospel will be spoken plainly and boldly. Remember, this is the goal, to evangelize. We don’t hold events just to meet non Christians. But it may take more than one meeting to accomplish our goal of evangelism.